‘Hi, How Are You?’ is an important question to ask your friends and family; and it’s more than just a generic greeting said countless times throughout the day. It also the name of a musician’s album. Daniel Johnston (b. January 22, 1961) is not a name your average American is familiar with, his eclectic music is bound to be known even less. For musicians working in the industry, however, Daniel Johnston is a name that elicits both joy and sadness.
Johnston’s body of work is quite large. He started off in the 1980’s in Austin, Texas making a name for himself as an odd yet immensely talented young musician. One of his first albums, “Hi, How Are You?,” was released in 1983; his talent did not go unnoticed by the music community in Austin and pretty soon prominent musicians where adorning t-shirts with the album cover plastered on the front.
At this point, you might be wondering what Daniel Johnston has to do with the field of addiction and mental health? If you are one of the many people unfamiliar with his work, it likely due to the severe impact that mental illness had on Johnston’s career. After all, he says that “Hi, How Are You?” was recorded while he was struggling with a nervous breakdown. Over time, it would become clear to everyone who knew him that Daniel suffered from multiple forms of mental illness.
Encourage Mental Health Support
Johnston is arguably one of Austin, Texas’ most loved musicians. Many people have devoted extensive amounts of time and energy helping Daniel have a career, for a time it seemed he would get his act together. However, progress was always fleeting, a fact made clear in a 2005 documentary “The Devil and Daniel Johnston.”
Like most people who struggle with mental health disorders, talking about one’s condition is hard. Accepting help from others and asking for help is even more difficult. You see, Daniel is living with schizophrenia and manic depression, or bipolar disorder. Over the years his symptoms led to erratic behavior forcing the need for extended stays in psychiatric hospitals. He managed to return to the music scene on several occasions over the years, retiring from live performing in 2017. The heights of his career may not have matched his genius, but to those who’ve felt his music, he will always be dear, especially in Austin.
Recognizing Daniel’s body of work, and the impact mental illness had on him, the City of Austin declared January 22nd “Hi, How Are You?” Day, NPR reports. The goal is to encourage people struggling with mental illness, like Daniel, to talk about their suffering. Doing so could lead to receiving support. If all of us asked, ‘Hi, How Are You?,’ we can make a difference in people’s lives.
“Please hear my cry for help and save me from myself.”—Daniel Johnston
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“‘Hi, How Are You?’ is more than one of Austin’s most iconic murals,” Austin Mayor Steve Adler says. “It’s a reminder to reach out to our friends and neighbors to see if they’re OK, and for those experiencing mental health issues it’s a reminder that you’ve got a whole community that can handle an honest answer because we want to help you get the help you need.”
Mental Health Support
If you are living with an untreated mental illness such as addiction or a co-occurring mental health disorder, please contact Celebrate Hope at Hope by The Sea. We can help you discover the gifts of recovery.